Strong anti-GOP rhetoric had suddenly shined the spotlight on the November 8th non-partisan Hoboken Board of Education race, which had been a pretty sleepy affair until this week.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
A mailer paid for by the “Leadership that Listens” team of Leslie Norwood, Antonio Graña, and Trustee Alex De La Torre, all Democrats, reached targeted blue voters yesterday.
“Across America, extremists are trying to over school boards. Now it’s happening here,” the campaign piece contends.
In short, the “Kids First” team of Pavel Sokolov, the secretary of the Hoboken Republican Committee, Donna Magen, and Cindy Wiegand – who are both unaffiliated voters – are attacked for allegedly supporting former President Donald Trump, opposing mask mandates in schools, and soliciting endorsements from right-wing groups.
Specifically, the LTL team took umbrage with KF receiving support from the New Jersey Project, a conservative group that opposes vaccine and mask mandates, an LGBTQ+ curriculum, among other things.
“At a time where extremists are attempting to infiltrate school boards across the country, we call on Pavel, Donna and Cindy to disavow this group and all of NJP’s extremist viewpoints,” they said in a statement.
“ … We have nearly come through a global pandemic, but we are not out of the woods yet. Misinformation and disinformation have serious consequences. Now let’s extrapolate that to education administration. If you refuse to believe peer-reviewed research, what other data will you set aside when making decisions for our community’s children?”
In their own statement, the KF team noted that NJ Project has endorsed over 200 BOE candidates statewide and their website comes with a disclaimer that this is done so without any coordination with campaigns.
“Paid for by New Jersey Project and not authorized by any candidate or any candidates committee,” a disclaimer at the bottom of their endorsement page says.
“We have been committed to sharing our hopes and ideas for our community throughout this process and will continue to do so, respectfully. These comments and marketing materials are untrue, hurtful, and frankly an example of what is wrong today in Hoboken politics,” the trio asserted.
“Kids First stands behind our intentions and integrity. Our platform believes that critical to our school systems future success is transparency with the community, collaboration across all the schools, and fiscal responsibility.”
With the election last than three weeks away, some of Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s allies on the council have begun endorsing the LTL team, including Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero and 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen.
While expressing his support for LTL, Cohen also chided KF for the NJ Project endorsement, referring to them as “a radical far-right group fighting culture wars statewide.”
In an editorial earlier this month, the Hoboken Democratic Committee’s executive committee, which includes Cohen and Quintero, came out and said they wouldn’t get involved in the race, calling on the local GOP to do the same.
Although she did not endorse three candidates for the three-year terms on the school board, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, a frequent political adversary of Team Bhalla, blasted LTL’s “partisan, slanderous attack mailer.”
“If you didn’t see it, LTL’s attack mailer attempts to paint the competing Kids First candidates as book banning extremists by using dishonest and misleading statements. Basically a partisan bullying piece. If you actually met Pavel, Cindy and Donna, you would know that nothing could be further from the truth,” she wrote in an email blast.
She also said that “the bullying, dishonest and divisive partisan rhetoric and character assassination in our local, non-partisan elections has to stop.”
Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics Director Micah Rasmussen said that these types of campaign tactics are not uncommon in non-partisan school board races in the Garden State.
“School board candidates across the state are doing their best to conceal their positions and agendas, and while you could make the argument that the one organization’s support was unsolicited, it doesn’t seem like the entirety of it came out of thin air,” he told HCV.
“Voters are being forced to glean what they can from past controversies that have come before local school boards, and it looks like some of the details in this mailer comes from those.”
The Mile Square City BOE race also features two other Democrats running independently: John Madigan, a former trustee, and Patricia Waiters.